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Roger Moore | NCAA.com | December 21, 2015

DII Wrestling: Wisconsin-Parkside adds its name to the list of contenders

  Wisconsin-Parkside fell two points shy behind top-ranked Maryville in the Midwest Classic.

Wisconsin-Parkside added its name to the list of Division II challengers next March, battling top-ranked Maryville (Mo.) deep into Sunday before coming up two points short at the 37th Midwest Classic in Indianapolis. The Saints’ Ryan Beltz beat UWP’s Josh Anthony in the 197-pound championship match and Maryville edged the Rangers, 121.5 to 119.5.

Maryville junior Nate Rodriguez continued his dominance, pinning four opponents on his way to the 141-pound title and the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award. Zeb Wahle (174) and Donnell Walker (285) each lost in the finals in a tournament that included plenty of surprises from the 31-team field.

Wisconsin-Parkside finished 32nd at the 2015 NCAA Championships and was No. 17 in the Dec. 2 DII Coaches Association Poll. But fifth-year head coach Gregg Lewis saw sophomore Nick Becker (20-0) roll through maybe the toughest bracket of the 10, beating Wahle in the finals after knocking off UNC-Pembroke’s Robert Shade and Lake Erie’s Matt Vandermeer along the way. Wahle lost in the 2015 NCAA finals. Becker started his career at Central Michigan and did not suit up in 2014-15.

UWP 184-pounder Montrail Johnson opened a few eyes as well, beating Maryville All-American Nick Burghardt and Ashland’s Brandon O’Neill before falling to Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Travis McKillop in the finals Sunday afternoon.

UPJ, tied for third with Upper Iowa, had two champions, Tyler Reinhardt pinning Western State’s Travis Bradford in :33 of the 165-pound title bout to join McKillop, who went over 100 wins for his career during the weekend. Bradford’s weekend included victories over Lake Erie two-time All-American Matt Vandermeer and UWP senior Nick Fishback.

Upper Iowa’s Jordan Rinken blasted the 157-pound field, picking up three technical falls and a pin. Findlay’s Nick Goebel, the top-ranked 149-pounder in DII, won five bouts to claim top honors, while Adams State senior Adam Ramirez beat Maryville’s Dakota Bauer and Wheeling Jesuit’s Nolan Whitely on his way to top honors at 133 pounds. Hometown favorite Josh Kieffer outscored three opponents 22-0 and had a pin in winning the 125-pound trophy. Tiffin heavyweight Garrett Grey beat Maryille’s Walker to close the tournament.

Not every squad in the tournament was at full strength. But we did learn a few things, one of which is that, as usual, DII will be as competitive as ever.

RELATED: Other DII programs to watch

Speaking of Denney’s tree

The college wrestling landscape is filled with Mike Denney pupils, among them Steve Costanzo, leader of the 2015 NCAA champion St. Cloud State Huskys, and Nebraska-Kearney’s Marc Bauer. The newest addition to the coaching fraternity is James Reynolds, who will lead a new program in Springfield, Mo., Drury College which will take the mats for the 2016-17 season.

Reynolds, a Colorado native, is currently in his fifth season as an assistant for Denney, currently at Maryville (Mo.) and formerly at DII powerhouse Nebraska-Omaha, which discontinued wrestling following the program’s sixth championship in eight years in 2011.

“I was fortunate enough to help build the program at Maryville University and I’m eager to begin the process at Drury,” said Reynolds, who will begin his new job Jan. 4. “I would like to thank everyone associated with bringing a wrestling program to Drury University, and I am confident the program will add to the already strong history of success in Drury Athletics.”

Drury’s men’s basketball squad captured a DII national title in 2013.

The state of Missouri already has a solid foundation of wrestling. Plenty of collegiate rosters include Missouri natives, and Brian Smith has turned the DI Missouri Tigers into a top 10 program. Maryville has remained No. 1 in DII polls all of this season and Lindenwood might find itself inside the top 10 come March. Central Missouri has sent wrestlers to 43 NCAA DII Championships ― only eight schools have competed in at least 40 NCAA DII meets.

A little Greco, a little Reno

Colorado State-Pueblo wrestlers challenged the nation’s best in Greco on Friday and also sent a contingent to the Reno Tournament of Champions on Sunday. The U.S. Nationals serves as a 2016 U.S. Olympic Team qualifier with the top seven placers at each weight qualifying for the Trials in Iowa City, April 9-10. Three ThunderWolves wrestlers will be in Iowa City.

Junior heavyweight Jacob Mitchell, an NCAA DII finalist in 2014 for California Baptist who will suit for CSU-Pueblo this spring, finished third at 286 pounds in the Greco bracket. The Oregon native’s only loss was to 2015 NCAA DI runner-up Adam Coon of Michigan. Mitchell was sixth at the 2015 U.S. World Team trials.

Also in Friday’s Greco competition, Tarrance Williams, a junior from Portland, Ore., was fourth at 165 pounds and sophomore Marcus Finau, a native of Hawaii, was fourth at 215 pounds.

CSU-Pueblo finished 23rd at Sunday’s Reno TOC, no entry winning more than two matches in the DI-heavy field.

RELATED: DII Power Rankings Week 6

Quick Hits

Senior August Mizia picked up his 100th career victory in Mercyhurst’s 42-0 win over Seton Hill (Pa.) last Wednesday. The Laker 174-pounder finished third at the 2015 NCAA Championships and entered 2015-16 with 87 career victories.

Minnesota State-Mankato opened its dual schedule by whipping two North Dakota schools, beating Mary, 33-10, Thursday and Minot State, 44-3, Friday night. Two of DII’s top 141-pounders ― MSU-Mankato’s Alphonso Vruno, a senior, and Mary rookie Rudy Guillen ― squared off Thursday with Vruno easily winning, 13-4.

No. 3 Nebraska-Kearney had a scare Friday night. After beating York College (Neb.) easily, the Lopers needed Romero Cotton’s technical fall at 197 pounds to edge Chadron State, 20-18. For Cotton, a two-time NCAA champion, it was his first time on the mat this season.

Limestone (S.C.) won three matches against The Citadel in a 28-10 loss on Friday. Chris Diaz-Rivera had an 11-2 major decision at 133 pounds for the Saints.

LIU-Post (N.Y.) finished up a busy first semester with a 27-13 loss to Kutztown (Pa.) Thursday. It was the Pioneers’ (5-6) 11th dual of the season. All-American 133-pounder Joe Calderone leads the squad, going 10-2 over his last 12 matches with both losses coming to MSU-Moorhead’s Blake Bosch. LIU-Post returns to action Jan. 3 when they host Notre Dame College (Ohio) and UNC-Pembroke.

After beating LIU-Post, Kutztown dropped an in-state dual to Seton Hill, 22-18, on Saturday. Ty Lidic sparked the Griffins’ victory with a 5-3 win over KU All-American Matt Martoccio at 157 pounds. KU gave up a big six points at 149 pounds, giving a forfeit.

Former Northern State (Minn.) star heavyweight Mitch Meuleners, a two-time national champion, competed in freestyle at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas on Saturday. Meuleners just missed Trials qualification, finishing seventh at 275 pounds.

At the Reno Tournament of Champions, Colorado-Mesa led the DII contingent, finishing 12th in the grueling one-day, 28-team event. Freshman 157-pounder Jason Buhr won five matches with Marcus Haughman (197) and Madison Gambrell (133) each losing in the quarterfinals. Perhaps Mesa’s best entry, 141-pounder Daniel Salazar, ran into Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith in the second round. Morgan Smith led the Clan from Simon Fraser, winning four bouts at 184 pounds.